Updates from MPH Program Leadership




This has clearly been a whirlwind of a half year, especially in public health. In mid-March, as the United States started to shut down due to COVID-19, the MPH program prepared to move fully remote. Classes moved online without skipping a beat. Course syllabi and assignments were adjusted to deal with the pedagogical changes, but also to incorporate the public health impact of the most devastating pandemic in a century. Faculty and students flexed their creativity as we all adapted.

The MPH team had the challenge of converting two critical events - Capstone presentations and MPH graduation - from in person to virtual, while capturing the uniqueness they are both known for. The Capstone presentations went brilliantly, with typed questions from attendees read aloud by the moderator. What a treat to have collaborators, family, and friends from across the world watching and commenting! Graduation was bittersweet, as we were not able to celebrate this major milestone in person. The MPH staff and faculty missed congratulating the families. But, with support and advice from the graduating students, the MPH program held a virtual, live graduation ceremony, with keynote and student speakers, and graduates’ names announced as their pictures were flashed. We could all feel the energy and love through the airwaves! 

Along with the realization that communities of color were being adversely impacted by COVID-19, the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police, as well as the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many before them, shook our nation to its core. The aftermath of these events have led to an inflection point in the public conversation about racism, a conversation that we believe public health should lead. The MPH program has pledged to tackle the public health issue of racism by ensuring that our MPH program is anti-racist. As a first step, we held a series of Town Halls to hear from our students and alumni. We will now work with students and faculty to promote anti-racism both in the curriculum, as well as in professional and personal development opportunities. This is a long-term commitment, with the goal of integrating our anti-racism efforts to an extent that we can modify our core mission, vision, and values statements.

As the Fall 2020 semester starts, the program will continue remotely, including all classes and fieldwork opportunities. We are welcoming a fantastic group of 64 new students at a challenging, but important time for our field. Our alumni continue to inspire us while they are putting their skills to work across all areas of public health. We look forward to a time when we can return to meeting in person, with the priority on safety for our students, faculty, and staff. We are humbled by the flexibility, energy, and connectivity during an uncertain time, and will continue to support our Penn MPH community through whatever comes next.

In Health,

Dr. Hillary Nelson, Director, MPH Program

Moriah Hall, Associate Director, MPH Program